tiistai 24. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Wario Land - Super Mario Land 3 (1994)

Genre(s): Platform
Released: 1994
Available on: GB
Developer(s): Nintendo
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Players: 1

Wario became a very popular character in the Mario universe right after his stint as the main antagonist of Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. The problem was that at that point, the developers didn't really know what to do with him and how to improve his status... except the unlikely move to make him a lead character. Well, in 1994, Nintendo finally published a game in which the hero wasn't a cutesy, happy-go-lucky saint fighting for the greater good, but an ugly, childish, malicious and greedy thief working for no one's benefit but his own. Super Mario Land 3, now more or less officially known as Wario Land, as it has since spawned many sequels of its own, instantly became a cult classic and immortalized Wario as a character we all love to hate.

Building a kingdom of greed

Still seething over his defeat at Mario's hands, Wario sets out to find the lost statue of Princess Toadstool to use it as a bargaining piece to acquire a castle of his own. He learns that the pirates on Kitchen Island, led by Captain Syrup, are somehow linked to the mythical treasure. It's time to rob some robbers and get back at Mario.

Feel like ridin' on a Thwomp?
The game looks pretty much the same as Super Mario Land 2, on the surface. Wario's sprite has been smoothed out and cut down to size, luckily - he's still ugly as heck, but in a positive sort of way. He's not nearly the colossal warthog he was in the previous game. The enemy design is quite interesting; there are no classic Mario enemies at all except for Thwomp (or whatever they call him now), and a very modified version of Goomba, named Goom. Still there are over 30 different enemies, plus seven unique bosses, which are all quite stylish in design in the surreal Super Mario Land sort of way. The music's a bit better this time around, yet there's a whole new team at work once again, so it's quite different as well. A couple of familiar-sounding tunes appear, but the all-original score picks up the win this time.

Those going into this believing that Wario Land is just a simple Mario game with a different lead character are in for a surprise... a positive or negative one, that depends on the player. It's a whole different game, and I kind of dig it. The main purpose of the game is to collect coins. You can beat the game with any amount of treasure, but the ending of the game wholly depends on how much you've accumulated coins and hidden treasures. Almost everything in the game is based on money. You can use coins as weapons, you must pay for checkpoints - which might sound quite silly, but it's all right since you'll have to be a total speedrunner if you don't have the amount needed at that point - and also, to be able to exit and complete a stage. Each stage is followed by two bonus games which you can choose from: a double-or-nothing guessing game, in which you'll be able to double up your coins from the stage you just completed or lose half of them, and a 3D shooter with three different difficulty levels in which you'll have to bomb far away enemies to stock up on extra hearts or lives. I usually just take double or nothing, despite having extraordinarily bad luck. The shooter is really difficult on the harder levels.

Wario himself differs from Mario quite a lot. He doesn't die from simply touching an enemy, actually it's the complete contrary. He can knock an enemy over by just bumping into him. Might sound easy, but most enemies are armed with weapons, and he can't touch the weapons without taking damage; he has to bump into these enemies from a safe side. It still might sound pretty easy, but believe me when I say that Wario Land is quite a difficult game. There are some enemies you just can't deal with physically, at all. Wario's methods of attack vary depending on his state. The state is manipulated by different Pots - great, first mushrooms, then "pot". These pots grant Wario different helmets. The normal Super Helmet allows him to tackle through bricks and enemies. The Bull Helmet enhances the tackle in speed and strength, and also gives Wario the ability to pound the ground with a body slam. The Dragon Helmet gives Wario the ability to breathe fire - the fire also destroys bricks and works underwater in a different way. Finally, the Jet Helmet allows Wario to fly for a short while, and radically increases his walking speed. Little Wario, to which Wario traditionally changes after taking damage, is quite useless. He can still knock down enemies by jumping on them and throw them around in the vein of Super Mario Bros. 2, but he can't break any bricks by slamming or tackling them. Starman is the only returning power-up from the traditional Mario brand.

A man can go through the
grey stone.
Your goal is to make it through a linear world map, all the way from your landing point at Rice Beach to the heart of Kitchen Island, Syrup Castle. After you've beaten the game, all the coins and the value of hidden treasures you've gathered are tallied up to determine your ending. So, in this game, like in Super Mario Land 2, coins aren't collected for extra lives, not directly at least. Instead, you'll want to try gathering 100 hearts to gain an extra life. Each heart icon you collect is worth 10 hearts. Extra lives are way more difficult to obtain than in the two previous games combined. For the first time in this series, I actually lost all of my lives once... and I was very disappointed that each time that happens, the hidden treasures you've found so far are taken away from you. You can return to the stages to get them back, but it's still a pretty damn stupid and tedious thing to do to the player who might've gone far out of his way to get those trinkets.

The treasures are usually hidden in treasuries beyond maze-like areas. Finding the key is usually pretty easy, once you know it's there somewhere. However, getting to the treasury usually takes a lot of your precious time, which might run out during your little hunt. This was at least my main problem in collecting them.

Shades of Super Mario Bros. 2.
Each region of Kitchen Island is controlled by a unique boss. Once again, all of the boss fights have pretty much the same idea, but different strategy. You'll have to jump on them or throw a certain item at them three times to pick up the win. After each boss is defeated, you have a chance to collect a lot of extra money before the time runs out.

I think that's all I have to say about the basics, so the bottom line is: how are the controls this time around? They're still pretty random when it comes to jumping, and trying not to spoil anything, I'll just say some things that should work occasionally don't. It's like the A.I. decides whether or not it feels like taking commands. However, in general the control's a lot better than in the previous games. Wario is bulky, and not nearly as sleek and smooth as Mario, but that also means, in this case, that he maintains a certain precision missing from the earlier games.

Let's rumble, Rusty.
On how difficult the game is... well, as I pointed out, it is pretty damn difficult at times. Purposedly so, since the first two Super Mario Land games were easy as heck; Super Mario Land 2 even moreso since it was non-linear. It's especially difficult when you go for the best possible ending. Not only will you have to find all of the hidden treasures, you will also have to deal with an extra, secret region (although the difficulty level doesn't really soar like in most games with these sort of secrets) and muster up a lot of hard currency.

The final game in the Super Mario Land series spawned one of its own, and for a good reason. Wario injected the Mario franchise with something perhaps unimaginative and naive, but refreshing. It's fun to return to Wario Land from time to time, and it is indeed one of the most interesting and essential Game Boy platformers.

Graphics : 8.8
Sound : 8.1
Playability : 8.7
Challenge : 9.1
Overall : 8.7


a.k.a. Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land (JAP)

GameRankings: 81.00%

To date, Wario Land has spawned seven sequels of its own, despite formally being a Super Mario Land 3.

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